Florida’s veterans comprise about 9% of the state’s population age 18 and older. In some counties — typically those near military installations, VA hospitals, and strong military communities — that figure is closer to 18%.
On November 21, Kathy McDonald, FCAN’s Assistant Director for Network Partnerships, hosted a webinar highlighting the University of South Florida’s Office of Veteran Success (USF OVS) and the comprehensive supports that have earned USF national recognition as one of the top universities for veteran student success. Joining her were USF OVS’ Jason Miller, Associate Director, and Kenneth Nahrwold, Veteran Support Coordinator.
Get to Know: Florida’s Student Veteran Population
Florida trails only California and Texas in veteran education benefit usage while also ranking among the top U.S. states for military separations and VA education expenditures.
In 2018, more than 63,000 veterans utilized VA education benefits in Florida, which is more than double the number of veterans who used those same benefits in 2002.
Those veterans have largely been able to maximize their education benefits by earning some college credit or college degrees at a rate (67%) that is almost 10 percentage points higher than their non-veteran peers (57.6%).
USF’s Secret to ‘Veteran Success’
While the variety of services offered by USF OVS have led to its consistent placement as a top university for veterans, the keys to its success lie in two key areas:
- Building a sense of community for veterans on campus: USF OVS connects with veteran students through its mandatory orientation and a 3-credit hour class that acclimates the veteran student early on to campus life. This outreach also creates an opportunity for veterans to get to know their peers on campus. Through the Veterans Academic Commons and multiple dedicated programs offered each year, USF OVS builds a sense of community so that veteran students can connect with other students who share a similar background.
- Connecting veteran students with employers. While many employers seek to hire veterans, they often don’t know how to adapt military experience to their needs. At the same time, veteran students need exposure to civilian careers to better understand whether they align with their strengths. USF OVS offers an Industry Recon program that helps connect veteran students with employers in their career field of interest so they can learn more about that field and confirm it’s a fit before they get too far along in their degree program. OVS also offers career counseling that helps veteran students translate their military experience into skills employers understand and value.
Veteran Student Success on the Rise at USF
Throughout each year, USF has an estimated 2,300 active student veterans at its three campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee. About 64% of those students attend USF full-time, while 36% are part-time students.
The number of graduating veterans at USF has increased steadily since 2015-16 (387 graduating veterans), culminating with 593 graduating veterans for the 2018-19 academic year. Additionally, the graduation rate for USF veteran students is 73%, and their overall GPA is 3.2, suggesting their supports are working to accomplish their ultimate goal — veteran student success.
To learn more about the ways universities can support student veterans — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources.
Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.